Double feature: Sturgill Simpson teams up with Fantastic Negrito

album cover Last Days of Oakland
‘The Last Days of Oakland’ Album cover from Fantastic Negrito website.

Sturgill Simpson’s indie music has catapulted him to the top of the mountain, but he hasn’t confined himself to his own efforts. Simpson co-produced Tyler Childer’s album Purgatory now ranked near the top of the Country Billboard charts.

Now some of Simpson’s shows will comprise a double feature—the music of Fantastic Negrito. If you haven’t heard this guy, and if you like raw blues, you are missing out on a phenomenal talent.  

Negrito’s real name is Xavier Dphrepaulezz. His official bio explains his origins—unusual for a bluesman:

“Fantastic Negrito was raised in an orthodox Muslim household. His father was a Somali-Caribbean immigrant who mostly played traditional African music.”

The family moved from Massachusetts to California when Negrito was 12, residing in Oakland. That move laid the first stone in his path to music.

Negrito does what I call real blues, in the tradition of the great masters like Lead Belly who is featured in a previous article here at this site. Like other genres, blues takes on the persona of the musician, and on many occasions the approach features a powerful vocalist doing what I call vocal exercises to demonstrate the range of the singer’s voice. Some people like that approach better.

On his website, Negrito includes a writeup about his work:

“Fantastic Negrito is a man’s truth told in the form of black roots music. Each song the true story of a musician from Oakland who experienced the highs of a million dollar record deal, the lows of a near fatal car accident that put him in a coma, and is now in the phase of rebirth despite his playing hand being mangled. Negrito’s music emphasizes rawness and space. Slide guitar, drums, piano. Rather than update the Delta Blues, Fantastic Negrito leaves the original sounds of Lead Belly and Skip James intact, building bridges to a modern sound with loops and samples of his own live instruments. But the primary element that drives Fantastic Negrito’s music is uncut realness and zero concern for “pop” anything.”

I grew up in the South and blues music was no stranger due to an unusual upbringing by today’s standards. That’s probably why musicians like Lead Belly capture my aesthetic preferences today.

Sturgill Simpson and Fantastic Negrito promise an amazing evening of musical performances wherever they go. Both are bound to a visceral interpretation of their music. I hope to see them one day in person.

Visit the Fantastic Negrito website to learn more about his work.

Simpson’s Facebook page features upcoming tour dates.

(Kay B. Day/8-30-17)

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